DAR Hip Hop: Wu-Tang Clan's Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

By @CherchezLaPorsh 

1. Bring Da Ruckus
2. Shame On A Nigga
3. Clan In Da Front
4. Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber 
5. Can It Be All So Simple
6. Da Mystery of Chessboxin'
7. Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthin Ta Fuck Wit
8. C.R.E.A.M
9. Method Man
10. Protect Ya Neck
11. Tearz
12. Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber (Part II)

It’s been 20 years since the hip hop world was gifted with the talents of nine unique rappers. They introduced themselves as The Wu-Tang Clan. What we didn’t know at the time was that The Clan would revolutionize rap music and be crowned the best rap group of all time.

It all started in 1992 at Firehouse Studios in Brooklyn, Prince Rakeem and his two cousins Genius and Russell Jones, who we all know as The RZA, The GZA and Ol’ Dirty Bastard, would gather their childhood friends to embark on a collective rap career (which would eventually lead to some very successful solo gigs). A year later “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” would be born. Here is where the revolutionary aspect of the Clan kicks in, as the RZA is the most calculated person and as the founder, he laced immense intricacies in every song title, every mentioned number and every sample that went into making this album. The most important thing here is he allowed each person to write their raps uncensored with a different twist from what was already being done, in other words, free-associative lyricism. With martial arts and jazz samples mixed with New York street life, they brought a level of intellect and talent from the underground scene to the mainstream while keeping the originality, grimy beats and hardcore lyrics intact and unchanged. All this with a massive group of artists, which is no easy feat. For those who weren’t around in ’93, this is the album that re-birthed New York hip hop in a way, this is the album that would influence BIG, Jay, Nas, Mobb Deep, and so many others.

With only 12 tracks primarily produced by the RZA himself, this album is a definite classic and easily one of the greatest rap albums of all time. It deserves five stars, five mics, a 10, whatever ranking system you want to use, just call it perfect. With that said, let's take a look at what makes this so great.

RZA kicks us off with “Bring Da Ruckus”, and it starts off with a dialogue sample from “Shaolin and Wu-Tang”. As soon as the beat drops, we hear Melvin Bliss’ 1973 track “Synthetic substitution” and RZA pairs these two so well, you almost think the dialogue and beat are from the same source. It magnifies the grimy, underground hardcore feel the RZA is going for when he opens with “Bring da motherfuckin ruckus” repeated over and over.

This track has 5 of the 9 members, so right off the top we get style, flow and delivery variation, which is great. Ghostface starts us off with the first verse and the sample of “CB#2” by Vargas & Bess is a fantastic accentuation to his flow as the beat lines up perfectly when he says “My glock bursts, leave in a hearse, I did WORSE” and then again with “However, I master the trick just like NIXON” and so on. The second verse we get Chef. There really isn’t enough I can say about Rae’s delivery on this, I love what he does in these two parts:

“Now ya act convinced/
I guess it makes sense/
Wu-Tang, yo suuuuuuuuu, represent/”

And then again with:

“Gun to his neck now, react what?/
And that's one in the chamber/
Wu-Tang banger, 36 styles of danger/”

Those last three bars are incredible, the usage of gun and then referencing the “one in the chamber” and then “36 styles of danger”. This is a perfect example of the intricacies and calculated references that are laced throughout this entire album. I won’t get into it here, but Wu fans who are familiar with the basis of the Wu-Tang Clan will appreciate this as much as I do. The rest of the song is much in the same vein, as Inspectah Deck and GZA on the following two verses are just as incredible. Their flows are so different to what we just heard that they serve to smooth out and balance the entire song. The title, the lyrics, the delivery from each rapper is pure perfection and a truly fantastic way to start off this album.

The second song is “Shame On A Nigga” with once again the appropriate sampling from “Shaolin and Wu-Tang” with all those fighting/sword swiping sounds to create a continuity that is flawlessly inline with the theme of the entire album. This time the RZA introduces soulful jazz with a Sly Johnson sample, but doesn’t over do it so that grimy underground raspy sound is still quite prevalent. RZA also uses a Thelonius Monk sample on this track, but since it’s a slower song, he speeds up the tempo to create a consistency. It’s much appreciated. This track is our first exposure to the crazy, off-the wall antics and insane delivery techniques of Ol’ Dirty Bastard. The random throaty noises are his initial contribution, but we hear him throughout. ODB is (in my opinion) the most “hardcore” member of the clan, so his presence on any track always adds a great deal of depth and character (but we’ll get to that on later tracks as well). We hear Method Man second and Raekwon third and as much as I love both their verses and the intricacies in their wordplay and lyrics, the chorus is my favorite part of this song.  I’m gonna leave you with Meth’s flawless delivery of this:

“Gunnin, hummin comin atcha/
First I'm gonna getcha, once I gotcha, I gat-cha/
You could never capture the Method Man's stature/
For rhyme and for rapture/
Got niggaz resigning, now master/”

Next, we get “Clan In Da Front” to me this song is epic for a whole bunch of reasons:

1. This is the first time we hear the “Killa Bees” and “on the swarm” references which would be a trademark of the Wu and still be referred to decades later.

2. I love the minute long shoutout of all Clan members and Wu affiliates by the RZA. It’s theatrical and busy and just plain dope.

3. Apart from the intro, it’s GZA’s joint and since he’s got my second favorite flow of the members, it’s such a treat. A true genius and with lyrics to match we are about to experience 3 minutes of brilliance.

RZA equipped this song with a ton of samples, but you’d never know, as we’ve got more repeating samples which we’ve already heard in previous tracks, and he does this to maintain the coherence and continuity. This time, he adds a Jackson 5 sample and incorporates funk with “Honeybee” by The New Birth. RZA is brilliant on production so all of this works. GZA is known for his lyricism, but what I think is great, he drops wisdom so far beyond his 27 years at the time. He references Ella Fitzgerald, Geraldine Ferrerro AND Bernhard Goetz within the same verse and ties them all in. For those unfamiliar with the common thread between these three, they each were the “first” to do something significant (I’ll leave you to research it) and I’m really left in awe, as the GZA definitely earns his title of “Genius” and he is nothing short of one on this unbelievable track.

As soon as you hear the beat drop on the 4th track “7th Chamber”, you can almost hear the underground aspect of the Wu. This is a darker track which to me is appropriate. I love the integration of “Shaolin and Wu Tang” movie dialogue weaved throughout, but I especially appreciate that most of the members are on this track. We hear U-God for the first time even though it’s only on the intro. ODB’s psycho-lyricism is at an all time high but GZA follows and brings the balance back. Each of the Clan members bring immense hunger along with their unique style. This track is truly fantastic and the Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Spike Lee, and a few Buddhist and Islamic references are dope. As always, they do this with such ease and such confidence that the Clan’s chemistry and dynamic shines. This is easily one of the most underrated tracks on this album...truly a shame that it is slept on.

As much as I love this album already, from here on out it is solidified as perfection. We’re at just about the midway point when we get Rae and Ghost on “Can It Be All So Simple”. This was the fourth single off the album and was received very well by fans. Once again RZA shows his brilliance on the production side because it’s softer and slower than what we’ve heard, but somehow the dark street feel is rampant. This is apparent in the storytelling of Raekwon and Ghostface as they take us through the lifestyle. I love the calmness and I especially appreciate the buttery smooth vocal between verses. When Method Man starts talking on the intermission, it almost seems out of place, but not quite. I like his quick rundown of each Wu member's style, purpose and uniqueness. This is purely entertainment and insight, so of course fans love it.

The next song is my second favorite. "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'" and I don't know where to start. First off the significance of the title... clever.  RZA does it again by incorporating the element of Chess into this. We all know the patience, thought and calculation it takes to be a good chess player and as Wu-Tang taught us, sword fighting is much in the same vein so the sample dialogue that's used is incredibly fitting. The whole song plays out like a "swordfight". Second, all the Clansmen are on this track (except for the RZA, but since he's on production with ODB, we'll say all of them), which to me is what makes it so great. We even get our first exposure to Masta Killa. And lastly, U-God starts us off in probably my most favorite opening line on the entire album. In fact U-God's verse is my absolute favorite, as he kills it when he says:

"Raw I'm gonna give it to you, with no trivia/
Raw like cocaine straight from Bolivia/
My hip-hop will rock and shock the nation"

His voice carries so much base and sets the perfect groundwork for the rest of the artists. Method Man on the chorus/hook is dope, as he's got the most balanced flow, so it works well and of course the person we hear peering through Meth's voice is none other than ODB, who absolutely kills his verse and proves his craziness has no bounds. When he says:

"Just warming up a little bit, vroom vroom/
Rappinin is what's happening/
Keep the pockets stacked and then, hands clapping and/
At the party when I move my body/
Gotta get up, and be somebody!/"

And of course when he goes through each member's name and emphasizes "the Ghost...Face....Killaaaaaaaaaahhh", ODB definitely adds character and uniqueness to every track, and then of course Masta Killa. I absolutely love his flow. His style reminds me of a cross between GZA and Deck, and I love that the song ends with his verse. The whole entire track is high energy, engaging, and executed to perfection. I'm not at all surprised and I would expect nothing less.

"Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthin' To Fuck Wit" is another fantastic song and the one I would deem one of the two banger tracks. It's the Wu anthem for sure and a clear message to any haters. This has the most fun chorus ever, but still maintains every bit of hardcore edge. The lyrics are rugged, but once again it's softened out by movie dialogue, song samples and the constant switching of beats that provides so much variation, it's almost a whirlwind. RZA's flow isn't my favorite and although he appears quite a few times throughout the track, it works! Meth and Deck manage to keep me focused enough that I hardly notice it. And for those who doubt the banger aspect of this song... I dare them to put this on and sit still while hearing "And if you want beef, then bring the ruckus... Wu-Tang Clan ain't nuttin ta fuck wit". It is nearly impossible.

"C.R.E.A.M" - this song is a certified classic. A truly legendary track and total and utter perfection. It speaks for itself honestly. It has been referenced by absolutely every single artist in some way, shape, or form and is the defining track of the Clan. Why do I like it so much? It's simple and it's the most relatable song in the history of rap songs. You can either relate to it from a street-living aspect or from a struggling to make money aspect, whether by working or hustling. The simplicity lies in the title and concept of "Cash Rules Everything Around Me" honestly.

Next up, we've got "Method Man" and I think the success and fan reception surprised even the Wu, because this track also made history. It's ranked on top lists everywhere and gets recognition each time this album is mentioned and with good reason, as the beginning is savagery if I've ever heard it. Spiked bats, sewing assholes and feeding people in torture chambers leaves you almost scared of these guys. But it's the uncensored component that sets the Wu apart from others and this showcases exactly that. Then, Method man does a great job with lyrics here. His references have no limits, from the spelling out of "M-E-T-H-O-D" to peanut butter, to Doctor Seuss books, Fat Albert and the Rolling Stones band and so much more, the track is laced. He covers everything and makes it incredibly fun. My absolute favorite line is "Hey you get off my cloud, you don't know me and you don't know my style". I love his almost song-like delivery and ability to keep listeners engaged. This song is yet another perfect one.

I've waited so patiently to talk about this next one. "Protect Ya Neck" holds such a special place for me. It's the first hardcore rap song I had ever heard, as it was released in 1992 and it was the first rap song I ever learned the lyrics to and is the reason my passion and love for the entirety of rap/hip hop even exists. I owe a lot to this gem... now let me start with the intro radio phone conversation: epic. The "I wanna hear that Wu-Tang joint. Wu-Tang again? Aww yea again and again" is timeless and transcends generations. It's always quoted, always referenced and often talked about by youngins as well as the old heads. The integration of the repeatedly used sample of "Shaolin and Wu-Tang" is incredible. Inspectah Deck starts this off and each member (except Masta Killa) follows, making the overall flow of the song amazing. Each verse builds off the last while the sample from "The Grunt" by the JB's just adds to the energetic nature of the song. Lyrics like when Meth, U-God and ODB say:

"Ow, here comes my Shaolin style/
Sloop, B. A. Buh-B. Y. U/
to my crew with the "suuuuuu"

"Niggas be rolling with a stash/
Ain't saying cash/ 
Bite my style I'll bite your motherfucking ass!/"

"Niggas off/
Because I'm hot like sauce/
The smoke from the lyrical blunt makes me *coughs*/"

It adds so much variation and displays an immense amount of chemistry. When this song was released (as a single), it truly took the hip hop nation by storm and put each and every one of these guys on the map. It was this that revolutionized rap. The Clan pushed the envelope with every single song but this one was above and beyond. To say I love this is a complete understatement.

We are almost at the end when the RZA delivers the last song, which I would say is another perfect one. "Tearz" is your "emotional, reality check, shake your head and marinate on life" track. I absolutely love this, I love each and every sample, the chorus is perfect and meshes so well with the old scratchy sounding instrumental. The bouncy beat doesn't allow this to get you in your feelings initially, but where the beat falls short in doing that, the lyrics elicit the sadness, as it essentially starts off being about RZA's little brother getting shot and killed and the account of that incident. This line always gets me a little emotional:

"I was laughin all the time/
I taught him, all about the bees and birds/
But I wish I had a chance to sing these three words..../"

That verse is incredibly thought provoking and makes me incredibly sympathetic. The use of "after laughter comes many tears" by Wendy Rene supports and highlights the intended message. We have Ghostface on the second verse that really serves as a "part 2", because it's an entirely different story about how certain things are fun and enjoyable at the time, but every pleasure comes with an equal amount of pain, once again reiterating the theme of the song of "after laughter comes many tears" ....and I love the way this song covers two very realistic situations people who are into the street life deal with and I also love that it's not glamorized at all. RZA and Ghost killed it on this track.

The very last track is "7th chamber Part 2" and this is the most criticized track on the entire album and most people's least favorite. I look at this as more of an "Outro" rather than an actual song and for good reason. We hear snippets from previous songs throughout and each member (except Masta Killa) comes back to spit one last verse.... and it's not the best song on the album, but hearing these guys spit bars is an absolute gift and thus I appreciate this track just the same.

There you have it, the greatest debut album to me, one that gave Nas somewhat of a blueprint for "Illmatic" and other MCs a blueprint. "Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)" came and conquered the hip hop world from the depths of its once underground home. The nine members who were hand picked for their uniqueness, drive and lyricism poured each "chamber" of their hearts to give us 36 chambers of pure perfection. This is one album every single rap fan should own, listen to and memorize through and through. It truly pushed the envelope in every aspect and with it brought something we had never heard before. It is to thank for being the spark to a whole new era in the signature New York style gangster rap we know and love. This is an album of epic proportions that will never ever be duplicated. Many will try, but no group will ever come close to the brilliance and amazingness of the Wu.



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